Let's Talk About Animals Dancing

August 4, 2013

A few months ago, we posted about Snowball, the dancing cockatoo. While we were mostly just psyched that an animal was getting down to the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” (seriously, watch the video—it’s amazing), the scientific world was excited for a different reason.

It turns out there are a lot of dancing birds, but not many other animals who can dance (defined, in scientific terms, as being able to synchronize movement to a beat). For that reason neuroscientist Aniruddh D. Patel has hypothesized that there’s a link between vocal learning and dancing. Humans talk up a storm and dance up a storm; they’re able to imitate what they hear as well as what they see, with their voices and, ultimately, their bodies. Birds, who learn to sing by listening to other birds and copying the sounds, can do the same thing. Other animals can’t. Or so Patel’s theory goes.

But as this great NPR blog post notes, a California sea lion named Ronan seems to be able to keep a beat, too. Check out the video below—the evidence looks pretty convincing. (And we love that Ronan is also a fan of the Backstreet Boys.)

So what does this all mean? Are there other non-vocal-learner animals who, like Ronan, can rock out? Will we be seeing a bird-and-sea-lion dance revue anytime soon? Will it feature a Backstreet Boys soundtrack? The scientific jury is still out, but we’re kind of hoping the answer is “yes” to all of the above.